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Michelangelo Buonarroti

Michelangelo Buonarroti

(b Caprese, ?6 March 1475; d Rome, 18 Feb 1564).

Italian sculptor, painter, draughtsman and architect. The elaborate exequies held in Florence after Michelangelo’s death celebrated him as the greatest practitioner of the three visual arts of sculpture, painting and architecture and as a respected poet. He is a central figure in the history of art: one of the chief creators of the Roman High Renaissance, and the supreme representative of the Florentine valuation of disegno. As a poet and a student of anatomy, he is often cited as an example of the ‘universal genius’ supposedly typical of the period. His professional career lasted over 70 years, during which he participated in, and often stimulated, great stylistic changes.



The characteristic most closely associated with him is terribilita, a term indicative of heroic and awe-inspiring
grandeur. Reproductions of the Creation of Adam from
the Sistine Chapel Ceiling (Rome, Vatican) or the Moses from the tomb of Julius II (Rome, S Pietro in Vincoli) have broadcast an image of his art as one almost exclusively expressive of superhuman power. The man himself has been assimilated to this image and represented as the archetype of the brooding, irascible, lonely and tragic figure of the artist.

Although his reputation as a poet has not been so high, his poetry has been praised by such diverse figures as William Wordsworth (1770–1850) and Eugenio Montale (1896–1981).

     
     
     


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Michelangelo

Michelangelo


POEM

Ravished by all that to the eyes is fair,
Yet hungry for the joys that truly bless,
My soul can find no stair
To mount to heaven, save earth's loveliness.
For from the stars above
Descends a glorious light
That lifts our longing to their highest height
And bears the name of love.
Nor is there aught can move
A gentle heart, or purge or make it wise,
But beauty and the starlight of her eyes.

Translated by George Santayana


TO THE SUPREME BEING

The prayers I make will then be sweet indeed,
If Thou the spirit give by which I pray:
My unassisted heart is barren clay,
Which of its native self can nothing feed:
Of good and pious works Thou art the seed,
Which quickens only where Thou say'st it may;
Unless Thou show to us Thine own true way,
No man can find it: Father! Thou must lead.
Do Thou, then, breathe those thoughts into my mind
By which such virtue may in me be bred
That in Thy holy footsteps I may tread;
The fetters of my tongue do Thou unbind,
That I may have the power to sing of Thee,
And sound Thy praises everlastingly.

Translated by William Wordsworth
 

LOVE'S JUSTIFICATION

Yes! hope may with my strong desire keep pace,
And I be undeluded, unbetrayed:
For if of our affections none find grace
In sight of Heaven, then wherefore hath God made
The world which we inhabit? Better plea
Love cannot have, than that in loving thee
Glory to that eternal peace is paid,
Who such divinity to thee imparts
As hallows and makes pure all gentle hearts.
His hope is treacherous only whose love dies
With beauty, which is varying every hour;
But, in chaste hearts uninfluenced by the power
Of outward change, there blooms a deathless flower,
That breathes on earth the air of paradise.

Translated by William Wordsworth
 

ON THE BRINK OF DEATH

Now hath my life across a stormy sea
Like a frail bark reached that wide port where all
Are bidden, ere the final reckoning fall
Of good and evil for eternity.
Now know I well how that fond phantasy
Which made my soul the worshiper and thrall
Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal
Is that which all men seek unwillingly.
Those amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed,
What are they when the double death is nigh?
The one I know for sure, the other dread.
Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
My soul that turns to His great love on high,
Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread.

Translated by John Addington Symonds


TO VITTORIA COLONNA

by: Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

HEN the prime mover of many sighs
Heaven took through death from out her earthly place,
Nature, that never made so fair a face,
Remained ashamed, and tears were in all eyes.
O fate, unheeding my impassioned cries!
O hopes fallacious! O thou spirit of grace,
Where art thou now? Earth holds in its embrace
Thy lovely limbs, thy holy thoughts the skies.
Vainly did cruel death attempt to stay
The rumor of thy virtuous renown,
That Lethe's waters could not wash away!
A thousand leaves, since he hath stricken thee down,
Speak of thee, not to thee could Heaven convey,
Except through death, a refuge and a crown.

Translated by H.W. Longfellow
 

DANTE

What should be said of him cannot be said;
By too great splendor is his name attended;
To blame is easier than those who him offended,
Than reach the faintest glory round him shed.
This man descended to the doomed and dead
For our instruction; then to God ascended;
Heaven opened wide to him its portals splendid,
Who from his country's, closed against him, fled.
Ungrateful land! To its own prejudice
Nurse of his fortunes; and this showeth well
That the most perfect most of grief shall see.
Among a thousand proofs let one suffice,
That as his exile hath no parallel,
Ne'er walked the earth a greater man than he.

Translated by H.W. Longfellow

 

 
 
 
 

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